For the second year in a row, Paper Republic is working with the Beijing Interational Book Fair to organize a small literary festival around the fair itself. In Beijing, August 20–28. Click here for this year's program.
Between July of 2015 and July of 2016, Paper Republic publishing one free-to-read short translation on the web every week. Click here to see the full list.
Reading and books have played a huge role in my life since 1974, when I was 10 years old and the Cultural Revolution was still (underway). That year, through an “underground channel,” I got access to Western classics for the first time. Five years later, the Chinese door was wide open and all kinds of books were flooding in. The influence of existentialism and modernist literature began to exert (itself) on the younger generation.
—interview with 薛忆沩 Xue Yiwei in the Montreal Gazette.
Ken Liu's translation of the Xue Yiwei story "The Taxi Driver" appeared in the Winter 2012 issue of Pathlight. "God's Chosen Photographer", translated by Roddy Flagg, will appear in a forthcoming issue.
Shenzheners, a collection of short stories by Xue Yiwei (translated by Darryl Sterk) is out next month.
By David Haysom, August 27 '16, 5:48a.m.
So we're about halfway through our program of literary events
surrounding the 2016 Beijing International Book Fair, which so far has
been great fun. Last year, the first year Paper Republic did these
"Literary Salons", we were too exhausted to post about this at all,
let alone halfway through the program, so I suppose this is progress!
To me, it's clear what "progress" consists of: more hands on deck.
Last year it was just Dongmei and me; this year we've added Min Jie as
our third PR employee, and have a team of three awesome interns,
Lirong, Yutong, and Mingjun. The whole this is much more under
control, and it's possible to actually enjoy ourselves!
I'll post a few pictures below, but first a few memorable moments:
- Putting Alejandro Zambra, the Chilean cultural attaché, and the
Chilean ambassador on a stage which, several weeks after we booked
it, was turned into part of the children's book zone. The three of
them discussed Chilean history and literature against a /Finding
Nemo/ backdrop, while the audience sat on colorful little squishy
Tic-Tac stools. Zambra is a good sport.
- A cocktail party at the Beijing Bookworm. The Bookworm of course
runs their international literary festival every March, a much
larger and more long-running event than what we're doing here. But
the two things are complimentary in spirit, and I'm really glad we
were able to work together for the fun part of this week.
- Acting as impromptu bodyguard for Nobel laureate Svetlana
Alexievich yesterday. Most audience members at the fairground were
well-behaved, but a handful had obviously come because – hell or
high water – they were going to get a Nobel laureate's signature,
even if they had to tackle her. I wasn't expecting tussling to be a
part of our literary festival, but hey, it was exciting.
By Eric Abrahamsen, August 25 '16, 11:30p.m.
Image from 凤凰文化.
This week marks fifty years since 老舍 Lao She committed suicide by throwing himself into Taiping lake after he was attacked by Red Guards. 凤凰文化 (the Culture branch of Phoenix New Media) has put together a retrospective featuring video interviews with figures such as 葛献挺 Ge Xianting, another member of the Beijing Literary Federation who was present that day, and assorted opinion pieces:
Fifty years on, the people personally involved in that famous “Red August” are now aging or have passed away. If the truth exists only in their memories, then that generation’s departure signifies the loss of a piece of history. Lao She’s death becomes a diluted legend.
In 1984, Orwell wrote: “He who controls the past, controls the future.” If it is not too late, we hope to look back on history, and reawaken memories. On the August 23rd of fifty years ago, what violence and humiliation was Lao She subjected to, to make him step into the icy lake in the midnight hours of the 24th?
By David Haysom, August 25 '16, 5:19a.m.
Translator Ken Liu and author 郝景芳 Hao Jingfang – image from Hao Jingfang's Weibo.
At Uncanny Magazine:
"Folding Beijing", the story that won the award (beating out Stephen King in the process...)
An interview with Hao Jingfang.
"I Want to Write a History of Inequality" – a guest post by Hao Jingfang (written after being shortlisted for the Hugo).
All three of the above were translated by Ken Liu, whose forthcoming collection, Invisible Planets, which will also feature the story.
A video of the moment the award was announced, plus the acceptance speeches of Hao Jingfang (in which she expresses her disappointment that she won't be able to attend George R. R. Martin's Hugo Losers party) and Ken Liu.
On The Economist:
Keeping Up With the Wangs: an analysis of the inequality Hao Jingfang explores in her story (published after it appeared on the Hugo shortlist).
By David Haysom, August 22 '16, 12:16p.m.
Translated from 他们四个人的最大公约数是“残酷” by 唐山 at 北京青年报.
赵志明 Zhao Zhiming, 孙一圣
Sun Yisheng, 于一爽
Yu Yishuang, 双雪涛
Shuang Xuetao – what do they have in common?
By David Haysom, August 21 '16, 7:06a.m.
A First: Chinese Poetry Rendered in Kiswahili
From Bloomberg Businessweek (Chinese edition):
The literary journal Harvest has an online “youth” edition. At the end of April they announced on their official Weibo account that literary enthusiasts could now submit writing through an app called “Hangju” (行距). Furthermore, editors from Harvest would be using the app to offer guidance to writers. In its first ten days online, Hangju received over 600 submissions, the majority of which were passed on to Harvest. Author Wang Ruohan (汪若菡), recipient of the 2011 People’s Literature Novella Award, was amongst those who submitted work. He said the chance to get input from literary editors was his main reason for using the platform. “Writing is like navigating an ocean,” he says, especially for short story writers, who can lose their bearings completely when embarking on a novel. “I got to 60,000 characters in my first full-length novel before realising something had gone wrong, and there was nothing for it but to chuck it in the trash.” There is no more pressing issue when attempting to write than finding the guidance of a reliable editor.
By David Haysom, August 10 '16, 1:25a.m.
I'm in shock! For one, the official Beijing Int'l Book Fair has already uploaded at least a partial list of events open to the public, albeit in Chinese only. In the past, that generally happened on the first day of the fair, or later.
But even more eye-popping is the list of speakers for this (no doubt) bilingual forum on translation:
埃里克·亚布拉罕森（中英文学译者、Paper Republic 创始人）(Eric Abrahamsen)
报名链接：http://form.mikecrm.com/iWsUgu (never mind that this link doesn't work . . .)
For a classic Kubin interview re: his views on contemporary Chinese lit, see this one in English published just two days ago: No innovative culture without contact
By Bruce Humes, August 9 '16, 9:31p.m.
July-August 2016: Altaic Storytelling Newsbriefs
Interview with Ayonga, author of Manba Rasang, a soon-to-be-translated thriller revolving around a mysterious medical canon dating from the Mongol-ruled Yuan Dynasty . . . the man behind China’s Museum of Ethnic Literature . . . Junma Literary Awards for Ethnic Minority Writers . . . news on a bevy of Turkish novels appearing in Chinese, including Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar’s 20th-century classic, The Time Regulation Institute, recently released as 时间调校研究所 . . .
Translation Quote of the Week
It was as if I’d gone out to buy a silk party dress and come home with a set of nylon overalls.
(The writer describing how she felt reading a different translation of a book she thought she had always loved)
Junma Literary Awards: Winners of National Award for Writing by non-Han Authors
24 winners in these categories: novels, short stories, reportage, poetry, essays and translation
26th National Book Trading Expo
The 26th National Book Trading Expo, was held recently in Baotou, Inner Mongolia.
Turning Points: Women Writers from Taiwan
In the latest issue of Words Without Borders:
“Literary Heroes: Women Writers from Taiwan”, by Jeremy Tiang
From “The March of Time” by Su Wei-chen, tr. Jeremy Tiang
From “Notes of a Crocodile” by Qiu Miaojin, tr. Bonnie Huie
From “Qibla” by Shen Wang-ting, tr Jeremy Tiang
From “The Ringing of the Rain has a Forgiving Grace” by Ye Mimi, tr. Steve Bradbury
“We Deliver More than we Promise” by Hsia Yu, tr. Steve Bradbury
“Wedding in Autumn” by Shih Chiung-Yu, tr Darryl Sterk
Or, if you prefer your news in English:
Taiwan’s President Apologizes to Aborigines for Centuries of Injustice
August is Women in Translation Month – and we're recommending some excellent women writing in Chinese.
From June 2015 to June 2016, the Read Paper Republic team published a short story/essay/poem translated from Chinese, one a week for a year. For last year’s #WITmonth we published four pieces written by women and translated by women (nos 7-10). The rest of the time, we didn’t pay too much attention to the gender of the writer. So it’s cheering to see that over the entire year, of the 53 pieces we published, 22 were written by women. They are all available online – free to view. Thank you to all our authors and translators.
Also , in May 2016, we drew up a list for The Literary Hub, of
10 CHINESE WOMEN WHOSE WRITING SHOULD BE TRANSLATED: WRITING FROM MAINLAND CHINA, HONG KONG, AND TAIWAN. Read it here:
By Nicky Harman, August 1 '16, 11:37a.m.
Sci-fi: the end of day is coming, just not to China
Feature by Isaac Stone Fish in Foreign Policy -- Why apocalyptic fiction and film haven’t caught on in the Middle Kingdom.
"Part of the reason Chinese writers haven’t written fiction about the destruction of their country involves religion: China does not follow the Judeo-Christian tradition that foretells the apocalypse and rapture. 'The Christian tradition is linear. There is an end, a judgment day,' said Mingwei Song, an expert on Chinese literature at Wellesley College. 'Whereas in China, there is a circle, a change of dynasty, but not a change of the world.'”
“Le Dernier Quartier de Lune”: French version of Chi Zijian’s ode to Evenki to launch in September
The French rendition of Chi Zijian’s 《额尔古纳河右岸》will join several previously published foreign language editions including Dutch (Het laatste kwartier van de maan); English (Last Quarter of the Moon); Italian (Ultimo quarto di Luna); Japanese (アルグン川の右岸) , and Spanish (A la orilla derecha del Río Argún).
Hong Kong writer forecasts renewed popularity of martial arts novels amid political discord
Recent social conflict and political tension in Hong Kong have created a perfect environment for the comeback of once-popular Chinese martial arts literature, said Tommy Sun Sai-shing, president of Knightly World Press and himself an established writer.
Why Translations of Premodern Chinese Poetry Are Having a Moment Right Now
The stakes of poetry translation from Chinese are indeed the stakes both of how we understand translation and how we in the English-speaking world understand China. Translation is neither simply a matter for scholars to judge, nor is it something that can be left to the unaccountable imaginings of revelers in poetry — any more than China should be something only specialists or tourists alone can pronounce upon. Rather, bringing expertise and excitement together, translation can help expand our conceptions of poetry and of China, demanding more from ourselves, and more from it. The contentiousness may remain, but it can motivate us to create new and better representations.
Top 10 highest earning Chinese authors
The tenth of its kind, the ranking is based on the authors' copyright royalties from book sales from December 2014 to December 2015. A total of 70 authors are on the list.
- Yang Zhi（杨治）Pen name: Jiang Nan（江南）
- Leon Image（雷欧幻像）(pen name)
- Zheng Yuanjie（郑渊洁）
- Yang Hongying（杨红缨）
- Yan Bing（鄢冰）Pen name: Da Bing（大冰）
- Xu Lei（徐磊）Pen name: Nanpai Sanshu（南派三叔）
- Zhang Jiajia（张嘉佳）
- Jiang Shengnan（蒋胜男）
- Shen Shixi（沈石溪）
- Chen Sixuan（陈思玄）Pen name: Xuan Se（玄色）
The "Inspector Chen" poems: a look at the man and his verse - by Qiu Xiaolong
As fans of the “Inspector Chen” novels know, the Shanghai detective not only excels at solving crimes and navigating the complexities of politically tricky situations but also writes verse. Now, thanks to Qiu Xiaolong, a poet and translator (as well as a writer of mysteries), a collection of Chen Cao’s poems has become available. Here we provide an introduction to the volume penned Qiu, who unquestionably knows Chen and his poetry better than any other person on earth does—or ever could—due to the crucial role he has played in chronicling the versifying sleuth’s cases and writings. — Jeff Wasserstrom
THE JIA PINGWA PROJECT: SAMPLE TRANSLATIONS OF FOUR NOVELS
Nick Stember: "So, in March I met Jia Pingwa 贾平凹. Even if you’re familiar with Chinese literature in translation, you might not have heard of Jia, despite his towering presence in contemporary Chinese literature."
"Iron Girls to Leftover Women: What Next for Chinese Women?" is a blog I've just written for Foyles, a mega-bookshop in London (and elsewhere) with an impressive website including regular blogs. I approached them because I knew they'd ordered some copies of Xu Xiaobin (徐小斌)'s Crystal Wedding and I wanted to do some promotion for the book. But it's hard to interest the general reader in a (virtually) unknown author and book, so I decided to pick up on the piece Xu Xiaobin wrote recently for PEN Atlas, "A sea of red flags" and write about women. Xinran (薛欣然) has written a lot about Chinese women too, and was happy to be included...and so I ended up with two nice interviews. I have no idea if it will shift more books by both these authors off the shelves, but it felt like a worthwhile thing to do......
By Nicky Harman, June 25 '16, 3:47a.m.
Writing Chinese - children's literature day - Leeds, 2 July
To coincide with the awarding of the most recent Hans Christian Andersen Award to Chinese children’s author Cao Wenxuan, we are holding a special day-long event on children’s fiction in Chinese.
We’re delighted to welcome Minjie Chen, expert on Chinese children’s literature, and librarian at Princeton University, to give our key-note speech. And we’re also lucky enough to be joined by Helen Wang, Cao Wenxuan’s English translator; Katharine Carruthers, Director of the UCL Institute of Education (IOE) Confucius Institute for Schools; the translator Anna Gustafsson Chen; Valerie Pellatt, expert on Chinese translation and Chinese children's poetry and nursery rhymes, and others involved in teaching and translating Chinese fiction.
So, it’s rather gone by in a whirlwind, but we’ve reached the end of
our first year of Read Paper Republic. Starting June 18 of last year,
we’ve published 53 short pieces online, one each Thursday (there’s 53
weeks in a year, right?), and today’s publication of Li Jingrui’s One
Day, One of the Screws Will Come Loose marks the end of what we’ve
come to think of as “Read Paper Republic, Season One”.
We’re taking a short break! Nicky Harman, Helen Wang and Dave Haysom
have done a remarkable amount of work over the past year, and it's time for a breather while we think about where to go from here.
Apropos of that, we have a request to make of you! We’ve created a
very short online survey that we very much hope you’ll take a moment
to fill out. It’s only a page, and will be invaluable to us as we look
back over the past year of publications, and think about the future.
Please take five minutes and help us fill it out!
So what will be next? We’re not sure yet. Over the next six months,
we’re likely to make some more additions to the RPR lineup, probably
based around events and author visits in various parts of the world.
“Season One” was done with no funding whatsoever (thanks to all our
editors, translators and authors!), and we’re very aware that we could
make a hypothetical “Season Two” a lot better with a bit of support.
Got any good ideas for doing that? Please let us know in the survey!
By Eric Abrahamsen, June 16 '16, 2:31a.m.
3 Chinese books longlisted for the FT/OppenheimerFunds Emerging Voices Awards 2016
Three Chinese titles have made the longlist (without so much as a nod to the translators)
The Bones of Grace by Tahmima Anam, Canongate Books, Bangladesh / UK
Home by Leila S. Chudori, Deep Vellum Publishing, Indonesia
The Seventh Day by Yu Hua, Pantheon Books, China
The Tusk That Did the Damage by Tania James, Harvill Secker. India / USA
Man Tiger by Eka Kurniawan, Verso Books, Indonesia
The Four Books by Yan Lianke, Chatto & Windus, China
The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan, Chatto & Windus, India / USA
Sleeping on Jupiter by Anuradha Roy, MacLehose Press, India
Reckless by Hasan Ali Toptaş, Bloomsbury Publishing, Turkey
Crystal Wedding by Xu Xiaobin, Balestier Press, China
Congratulations to ALL involved.
Good Good Study: Laowai Translator Finds Joy In Chinese Literature
The laowai is our very own Eric!
Origin of Jia Pingwa's Name
Before his birth, [Jia Pingwa's] mother had a prenatal consultation with a village fortune-teller. She was
anxious because her first child had died soon after birth. The advice was that she should go into labour not at home but at the neighbouring village of
Jinpen 金盆 (Golden Bowl), which should bring good luck to the baby. After
birth, the child should be given a plain name to distract the attention of
demons and to allow for a safe growth. Consequently his mother named him
‘Pingwa 平娃’, ordinary boy, which he later changed to its pun, ‘Pingwa 平凹’,
meaning ‘level and uneven’...Hu Heqing regards the change of the characters as a magic transformation, for ‘level and uneven’ reflects a Taoist balance of natural elements: ‘ping’ refers to flat, unshaded places and therefore implies the element of yang, whereas ‘wa’, the indented surface, is hidden from the sun and naturally stands for the element of yin. ‘Pingwa’ hence achieves the most desirable balance between yin and yang.
Interview with Can Xue
There are very few progressive Chinese people right now, so I pin my hopes on the young. They are in their 20s now. In another 20 years, when they encounter problems spiritually, or when materialism cannot meet their needs, they might pick up one of my books, because I write to empower people, to make them independent, to develop their qualities as human beings.
2016 is, everyone agrees, a bad year for China. Usually, what a bad
year consists of is everyone telling each other “It’s a bad year here
in China”. But there’s good evidence that this year is objectively
worse than most. First, there’s Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption crusade,
which might be a righteous attempt to return the government to the
strait and narrow, but also might be a thinly-disguised campaign to
rid the official ranks of the less-than-loyal – and, sadly, is
probably both. The past twelve months seem have been a record season
for lawyer jailing which is always a really, really bad sign. The
internet occasionally verges on unusable. Hong Kong booksellers are
disappearing. For some reason, the fact that women’s-rights activist
Xiao Meili was stopped by police outside the Beijing Bookworm and
turned back from an event she was supposed to attend really drove it
home for me.
Even in better times, China’s publishing industry generally leads the
nation in gratuitous timidity. The echo-chamber effect is particularly
strong here – whispered rumors, sidelong glances, knowing nods, and
then the quiet consensus that “we’d better not risk it”. In a country
where everyone is kept guessing by the capriciousness of those in
power, publishers seem to have more sensitive antennae than pretty
much anyone else out there. And apart from occasional meetings with
SAPRFFT (where the government directives rarely amount to anything
more specific than “be careful, this is a bad year for China”),
publishers don’t have much more to go on than water-cooler gossip.
That, and the occasional castastrophic exercise of brute authority.
By Eric Abrahamsen, May 27 '16, 11:20p.m.
Paper Republic collective and friends put together this list for LitHub.com:
"Most readers nowadays, asked to name a contemporary Chinese writer, could manage at least one. But the odds are that it will be a man. Yet the near-invisibility of Chinese women writers internationally is entirely undeserved. They flourish on the literary scene at home and have done so since the beginning of the New Culture Movement in the early twentieth century. We are quite proud that this list (drawn up by the Paper-Republic.org collective and friends) ranges so widely. There’s something here for everyone, from travel literature to novels and short story collections, from fantasy and sci-fi to meditations on love and loneliness, with plenty of dark humor along the way. We have included works from all over the Chinese-writing world–mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan (and one from USA too)."
By Nicky Harman, May 25 '16, 3:03p.m.
Terrific article by Helen Wang and Paul Crook:
"The British Museum collection of Mao badges currently stands at about 350 pieces. It’s part of the UK’s national collection of badges from all over the world. Since the catalogue of Mao badges was published, every so often I receive emails from people who have their own Mao badge collections, often numbering in the hundreds or thousands. One such person is Clint Twist, who, with only a little encouragement a couple of years ago, set up what is probably the first English language website devoted to Mao badges — and tweets a Mao badge almost every day @clinttwist.
More recently, I discovered that one of the British Museum volunteers, Paul Crook, had been a teenage Mao badge dealer in Beijing in the 1960s! Paul — who was recently interviewed by the BBC for a segment on posters from the Mao era — kindly agreed to talk about that time, vividly confirming Dikötter’s statement that “badges were the most hotly traded pieces of private property during the first years of the Cultural Revolution, open to every form of capitalist speculation.”
By Nicky Harman, May 25 '16, 2:59p.m.
Why are Beijing's gig venues closing?
Yang Jiang (1911-2016)
Yang Jiang died at Peking Union Medical College Hospital in Beijing, according to The Paper, a state-owned news website. It said her death had been confirmed by her publisher, the People's Literature Publishing House.
As Chinese sci-fi picks up steam, it’s finding fans around the world
Although many foreign readers are very interested in Chinese science fiction, many have limited access to its works due to language barriers and lack of translations.
One out of 178 social media posts in China's cybersphere are authored and posted by a government employee — totaling 488 million annual posts — according to a new report written by professors at Harvard, Stanford, and the University of California.
It is based partly on analysis of leaked e-mails (43,000!) from an Internet Propaganda Office in Jiangxi. It appears that most are intended to distract the public from bad news. You can read about the report here and here, or download the 34-page PDF here.
So much for quantitative research. I'm more interested in how the 50c Party (五毛党) plays out in contemporary Chinese fiction. I recall the way author Stephen Koonchung recreated one of China's first real social-media-driven “mass incidents” (trucks carrying hundreds of dogs to slaughter in Beijing were blocked by activists thanks to real-time messaging) in his Kafkaesque Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver. Such scenes in a novel can be quite effective in sensitizing readers to the phenomenon, perhaps more than any single statistics-studded report.
- Is it permissible to write in detail about such government-sponsored propaganda in short stories, novellas or novels?
- How are Chinese fiction writers portraying the impact of the 50c Gang on conversation in shaping public opinion?
- Titles of works of Chinese fiction in which 50c Gang activities or members figure prominently?
By Bruce Humes, May 20 '16, 8:28p.m.